Chef Barry Visits AeroFarms' Aeroponic Farm
Director of Culinary Research and Development Barry Tonkinson visits a high-tech farm growing plants in the air in New Jersey.
In mid-December, I was invited to visit AeroFarms’ global headquarters in Newark, New Jersey. Aerofarms is the world’s largest vertical aeroponic farm that’s growing healthy, delicious and nutritious food with award-winning technology.
AeroFarms’ patented, sustainable growing system is designed for fully controlled growing environments adapted to each product. This optimized growth allows for a speedy harvest cycle, a fully controlled food safety system and extremely well-monitored and predictable results.
The innovative, indoor model consists of a solution chamber encapsulating tubes that spray aeroponic mist. This mist has a mix of specific nutrients, water and oxygen, each component designed specifically for the seed. The seeds for the plants are embedded in a fully recyclable cloth medium for seeding, germinating, growing and harvesting. Made from recycled water bottles, the cloth simultaneously absorbs and drains moisture so the root can extend through, and the plant grows above. Fully adjustable LED lighting provides the energy-efficient spectrum needed for each plant. Intensity and frequency are engineered to customize the size, shape, texture, color, flavor, and more importantly, nutrition of each plant.
The high-tech system monitors every environmental aspect, even adjusting for the differential in air from the bottom chamber to the 12th, which is closest to the building ceiling. This form of growing yields products with much less of an environmental impact than the results of traditional field farming.
The aeroponic farm uses 95 percent less water than field farming and 40 percent less than hydroponic systems. Seeds grow in this environment in half the time they would in a traditional field farm leading to a massive 390 times productivity per square foot.
The vibrant flavors created are astonishing. AeroFarms packages its own products under the name Dream Greens. Baby kale leaves are delicious, succulent and tender with a surprisingly sweet note. A baby spice mix is a blend of peppery leaves, from watercress to arugula, that packs a punch. Baby pac choi is sweet and crisp. The amount of work and effort put into the growing, developing and harvesting of these greens is only evident in their taste. With AeroFarms’ dynamic growing capabilities, these baby leaves are exploding with flavor.
Stay tuned for more as I work with AeroFarms on an upcoming sustainability project using the harvested stems from these delicious plants.
Explore ICE's hydroponic farm and sustainability initiatives.